The editorial board of the Wichita Eagle adds some fascinating behind-the-scenes details of the backlash Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R-KS) is facing for unilaterally rejecting the ACA’s early innovator exchange grant. Brownback had previously touted the money — which would have assisted the state in the technical aspects of establishing the new market places — as a way for the state to build it own “market mechanism” and his decision to give back the $31 million surprised many state officials and Republican leaders working to implement the exchanges:
And the move badly disrespects the months of hard work by Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and her team to have an online insurance marketplace for the state ready to go by January 2014, with help from the federal grant. Praeger wasn’t even told about the decision until late Monday evening. [...]
“We want this to be run by Kansans for Kansans,” Praeger said Monday in Topeka, before Brownback’s decision.
Praeger, a Republican and a national leader in helping shape health care reform in a way that served states’ interests, had tried and failed to persuade the GOP-led Legislature to take some actions to help set up the marketplace.
But even GOP lawmakers were caught off guard by Brownback’s decision, especially given that Brownback reportedly had signed letters enabling Praeger to accept the grant. “It was a surprise to me,” Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “Having money to implement this was a good move on the federal government’s part.”
Indeed, Brownback’s decision will greatly complicate Praeger’s efforts in establishing a working state exchange and increase the likelihood of the federal government having to step in and build Kansas’ marketplace. And if that happens, Brownback’s Tea Party constituency will have something new to complain about.